Trail Running Challenge Blog (Ethan Banks)

Core & Collagen

After getting back from the airport Wednesday evening, I was done. Several hours of airports and airplanes, plus two hours in the car to get home, and all that on five hours of sleep. Five hours of fitful sleep, too, and on the heels of two other nights of poor quality sleep. Blah.

The training plan was to do a strength workout when I got home, but nope. Didn't happen. And so it was that while I managed to get my running done while traveling, I missed the two strength workouts.

As Coach K was going over the week with me, she said that if a strength workout isn't going to happen for whatever reason, to at least get the core done. Core was the thing not to miss, no matter what. Core is also pretty easy to make happen. I can do crunches, glute bridges, and a bunch of other core moves anywhere. The floor of my hotel room would have worked fine.

But...I would have guessed that the strength work to not miss as a runner would have been legs. I'd have been wrong there. Coach K explained that so much of what a runner does, especially a trail runner in technical terrain, draws on core strength. That made sense to me.

Running down a rocky, rooty New Hampshire trail means I'm always slightly off balance. Each footfall is different from the last. I'm constantly making tiny adjustments to everything. For example, I might shrink (or lengthen) my stride for two or three steps to make it easier to leap across a water feature or to hit the top of a friendly looking rock. Or maybe I'm running through a rock garden, a frantic dance putting your feet and body in all sorts of odd positions you react to each step. Or maybe I'm running on a sidehill which puts me off-camber.

Core really is all that, now that Coach K points it out.


I listened to Ep.47 of Fuel For The Sole where they discuss collagen supplementation for runners. I picked up a few things.

  1. When we age, we don't produce collagen as well as we did when we were younger. Production starts falling off in our late 20s.

  2. Collagen replacement is important for ligaments & tendons.

  3. Thus, collagen supplementation--while not cheap--is worth considering, especially for older athletes.

  4. Collagen supplements are not vegan, most coming from cows. There is no straightforward vegan solution here.

  5. Collagen comes in several forms, but powder is the most commonly available and consumed. There are liquid and gelatin forms as well, though.

  6. Some studies suggest to not use collagen in conjunction with caffeine, as caffeine can inhibit collage absorption if I remember the issue correctly. But I believe the correlation found in the study was weak. The hosts brought up this point, as many people take their collagen by dissolving the powder in their coffee, although anecdotally some people think it makes their coffee taste funny.

  7. Another study suggested that the optimal time to take collagen was 45 minutes to an hour before a training run. Why? The study showed that collagen levels peaked in the bloodstream in that timeframe after ingestion. Plus, blood flow to ligaments and tendons is notoriously bad. So the idea is to maximize the amount of collagen getting to ligaments and tendons via the max bloodflow you'd enjoy during a workout. But again, this sounded like a somewhat weak study as it wasn't clear that maximizing blood flow to these areas would change the resulting collagen benefit much.

I asked Coach K for her opinion of collagen supplementation, and she was all for it. Takes it herself and believes it's beneficial. Big fan. So, yep...I'm going to give that a try. The niggles I have the most are tied to tendons mostly, and perhaps a collagen supplementation will improve my body's ability to repair the damage I'm doing to it when I run.